Mint Leaf Starves Cancer to Death!

How’s that for a catchy headline? 😉 Except in THIS case, the headline actually comes closer to the truth than those ridiculous headlines screeching about multivitamins causing prostate cancer (see my recent post and page on that study).

Without Dr. Benelli’s books (see my Natural COX-2 inhibitors post), I might not have discovered the anti-MM effects of baicalein, one of the main compounds found in Scutellaria baicalensis, also known as Chinese skullcap. In spite of its scary-sounding name, which derives from the peculiar shape of its seed heads, this plant is actually a very friendly member of the mint family (Laminaceae). This online photo shows off its very pretty flowers (in fact, I am thinking of getting one for my back yard): Its yellow root has been (and IS) used in traditional Chinese medicine for the past 2000 years to treat various ailments ranging from irritability (!) to hepatitis. Its healing properties are too many to be listed here, but can be found on many websites. I would just like to mention that it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antitumour, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, free-radical-scavenging €”okay, enough, enough, this is turning into a laundry list! €”properties. And more!

Baicalein and MM. Drum roll, please! A 2005 study published in Blood is titled: Baicalein, a component of Scutellaria radix from Huang-Lian-Jie-Du-Tang (HLJDT), leads to suppression of proliferation and induction of apoptosis in human myeloma cells ( Suppression of proliferation? Induction of apoptosis in MM cells? Hurray! Scutellaria radix is the dried root of Scutellaria baicalensis (baicalensis, by the way, derives from Lake Baikal, in Siberia, where the plant was first discovered), which is an ingredient in HLJDT, a traditional Chinese medicine. It was found to have anticancer, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Researchers tested its three main components–baicalein, baicalin, and wogonin–separately, and concluded that baicalein had the strongest anti-MM effects. In particular, it inhibited the proliferation of myeloma cell lines and the survival of primary myeloma cells, especially MPC-1- immature myeloma cells, and induced apoptosis in myeloma cell lines via a mitochondria-mediated pathway by reducing mitochondrial membrane potential and activating caspase-9 and caspase-3. Researchers also found that the antiproliferative effect of baicalein is not specific to myeloma cells, since it has also been examined for a human myeloid cell line, HL-60. I have already mentioned these HL-60 cells (see the link to the 2007 University of Pittsburgh study in yesterday’s post). Baicalein also inhibits COX-2, which may occur via the down-regulation of NF-kB. The good news continues: baicalein and Scutellaria radix also have an effect on the infamous IL-6. Yahoo!

Furthermore, baicalein is a potent inhibitor for -glucosidase, which catalyzes the final step in the digestion of carbohydrates. Based on these observations, we cannot exclude the possibility that the baicalein-induced inhibition of myeloma cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis result from not only the down-regulation of NF-kB activity but also various other actions of baicalein. So baicalein will kill my MM cells using different mechanisms AND reduce the impact of my dinner pasta carbs on my blood sugar at the same time. Now, that’s what I call a find! 😉 The study concludes: The results presented here clearly show that baicalein (or Scutellaria radix) can directly inhibit the proliferation of myeloma cells and present enough evidence for clinical trials to treat multiple myeloma. Indeed! Unfortunately, I was unable to find any clinical trials listed for Scutellaria, except for a Phase I/II trial ( that is testing Scutellaria barbata D. Don, or barbed skullcap (a relative of our Scutellaria baicalensis), for advanced metastatic breast cancer. See this BBC News report: I mention this report mainly because I loved (and borrowed, thank you!) the headline: Mint leaf starves cancer to death ! 😉

Other studies. A 2003 study ( examines the effect of baicalein on the central nervous system, concluding that it has neuroprotective effects. And Scutellaria baicalensis was tested in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), which is resistant to chemotherapy, in vitro and in vivo ( The study concludes that Scutellaria baicalensis appears to have many anti-cancer mechanisms. If you are squeamish, do not click on this link, which posts the photo of a mouse with huge tumours. I was horrified. I know, I know. Also, here is a prostate cancer and baicalein study: I will stop here.

Concluding remarks on Scutellaria and MM. An April 2007 study ( confirms that Scutellaria baicalensis and baicalein (in particular) have anti-proliferative and apoptotic activity against acute lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma cell lines. Another recently published study ( shows that baicalein combined with Dexamethasone suppress the growth of MM cells. Researchers report that this combination also reduced the expression of IL-6, as we have seen. The study states that the cooperative growth suppression of Dex and baicalein in myeloma cells might be useful for myeloma therapy. Combinatory treatment with both may overcome the Dex resistance and the baicalein resistance in primary myeloma cells, as well as myeloma cell lines. Good news for those MMers undergoing chemotherapy.

Where are those baicalein-MM clinical trials???


  1. “Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
    The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
    Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
    And waste its sweetness on the desert air.”

    Alas, Margaret, this I fear is the fate of you painstaking researches
    and groundbreaking results. The internet is so vaste, and there must be millions seeking the news which you have discovered.
    How many hits do you get? Any from our friends on ACOR?
    Until they enter, Margaret’s Corner is ‘just another blog’ to them.
    It should be shouted from the rooftops.
    I am glad to the point of excitement to read this and I shall
    follow it up.Keep up the good work !
    Old Bill.

  2. What a great way to share the valuable information you are finding… thank you from fellow MM survivor. Carol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *